Operationalizing Trapped Populations

Authors: Jack DeWaard, University of Minnesota, Mason Clay Matthews, University of Colorado, Daniel H. Simon, University of Colorado, Fernando Riosmena*, University of Colorado at Boulder
Topics: Population Geography, Environment
Keywords: Climate change, environmental change, migration, trapped populations
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Cabinet Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


We address an emerging need in the growing body of research on so-called trapped populations. According to the Foresight (2011) report, trapped populations are composed of actors (individuals, households, etc.) that are “unable to move away from locations in which they are extremely vulnerable” to climate and environmental change. Identifying trapped populations is critically important for targeted monitoring and interventions to anticipate and prevent largescale humanitarian emergencies under climate and environmental change. Unfortunately, prior research has thus far not established an operational definition and corresponding set of steps to empirically identify and analyze trapped populations. The primary aim of this paper is therefore to provide the first operational definition and corresponding set of steps to empirically identify trapped populations, followed by examining some of their characteristics and further comparing these to other non-migrants and to migrants. We demonstrate the utility of our operational definition and corresponding set of empirical steps by making use of retrospective data from the 2010 Mexican Census long-form that were recently analyzed by Riosmena et al. (2018) to predict the likelihood that a household sent one or more international migrants during the 2005-2009 period as a function of environmental and other economic and social factors. Going forward, we plan to extend our work to include additional co-authors and cases using quantitative and qualitative data from other studies.

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